Exceptional Nonfiction Books for Kids
Lincoln Tells a Joke: How Laughter Saved the President (And the Country) illustrated by Stacy Innerst
Invest in this nonfiction picture book for your classrooms and libraries — it’s a wealth of information presented in a very interesting way. You’ll be as astounded as me that you’ve lived so long without knowing much of this information about President Lincoln’s sense of humor — and learn examples of his very pithy words of humor and wisdom. And the illustrations are just lovely.
Glow Animals with Their Own Night-Lights by W.H. Beck
I LOVE the photography in this beautiful nonfiction picture book and think you will as well. Brightly colored (glowing) plants and animals with bioluminescence pop out of the pages on black backgrounds. Each two page spread page has both large and medium sized text with the perfect amount of text — not too much! Read to find out why these creatures glow. You’ll learn how they use this adaptation for a purpose such as hunting, hiding, and tricking. Impressive.
The Quickest Kid in Clarksville by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Frank Morrison
Olympic medalist Wilma Rudolph is the biggest news in Clarksville, Tennessee and Alta wants to be just as fast even though she has holes in her shoes and Charmine wants to be faster.
Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Charlotte Voake
Young Beatrix lived in London with her many animals, bunnies, hedgehogs, news, snakes, dick, salamanders, a frog, and more. She constantly recorded all their adventures, usually misadventures. Most of all, she painted her animals. One day she borrowed her neighbor’s guinea pig so that she could paint her. But when she left her unattended, the little creature got into some glue and paper which killed her. She sadly confessed the mishap to her neighbor and gave her the painting as an apology. (The door was slammed in her face.) But when Beatrix became famous, her neighbor sold the painting for lots of money — so the moral is if an aspiring artists gives you a picture, keep it. You just never know. Quirky and fun.
DNA Detective by Tanya Lloyd Kyi, illustrated by Lil Grump
Colorful and easy to read, I very much enjoyed this informational book and it’s kid-friendly layout. Plus it’s packed full of fascinating facts about the science of DNA and how researchers figured it out and use it in practical applications like solving crimes.
Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever by H. Joseph Hopkins, illustrated by Jill McElmurry
Kate Sessions helped plant San Diego with a variety trees that would grow in the city’s climate. She worked hard to make sure that by the World’s Fair, there were enough trees for shade that the attendees wouldn’t be too hot. Beautifully written and illustrated!
The Notorious Benedict Arnold by Steve Sheinkin
If only all nonfiction books for children were this engaging and well-written! This reads like a story, a narrative. Thank you, Mr. Sheinkin!
Bomb: The Race to Build –and Steal–the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin
Another knock-out nonfiction book from the talented Steve Sheinkin! I’m so impressed how Sheinkin makes this story come ALIVE like it’s an adventure / mystery / thriller and not real life. Well, they do say truth is stranger than fiction. But usually it’s written like it’s duller than dirt. This book is a great exception — mesmerizing. I wasn’t even interested in the topic until I started reading.
Nice Work, Franklin by Suzanne Tripp Juryman, illustrated by Larry Day
His goal was to be president like his cousin Teddy so Franklin worked hard to walk in Ted’s footsteps — and things went well until he got polio which paralyzed his legs. Things got better but then America got sick with The Great Depression. Franklin ran for President to try to fix the sickness. He was elected (twice in a row) and created jobs, a government pension plan, and help for farmers. This is an informative and well-written biography.
Mean Machines Customized Cars The world’s hottest most impressive and exciting customized cars by Kane Miller
So many kids love cars like these (okay, and many of their dad’s do as well). This book highlights cool custom cars, their top speeds, their 0-60 mph, and their horsepower. From an Aston Martin DBS to the Bugatti Veyron, if you have a car lover, he will devour this book.
The Kid From Diamond Street: The Extraordinary Story of Baseball Legend Edith Houghton by Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Steven Salerno
In a time when girls didn’t get to play sports, Edith excelled so much that she was playing on the only woman’s baseball team at ten years old — and got to play in Japan! Fantastic illustrations by Steven Salerno.
Hiawatha and the Peacemaker by Robbie Robertson, illustrated by David Shannon
The Peacemaker was a real person who choose a man named Hiawatha to help him communicate his message of peace and unity to the five nations of Iroquois. The message wasn’t well-received at first but the Peacemaker helped the tribal leaders understand forgiveness and unity. United, the Iroquois nation became a model for democracy which was said to have influenced Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson.
Jars of Hope: How One Woman Helped Save 2,500 Children During the Holocaust by Jennifer Roy, illustrated by Meg Swenson
This inspiring narrative nonfiction picture book on World War II honors Irena Sendler, a Polish social worker who helps smuggle babies and children out of the ghetto before they’re sent to the camps. Irene kept lists of the children’s original names and their new names which she buried in jars, hoping that maybe after the war she could reunite families. She risk her life and saved over 2,500 children. I love stories like this, true courage in the risk of great danger.
I am Martin Luther King, Jr. by Brad Meltzer, illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos
This nonfiction biography series for young readers is absolutely fantastic. The latest is this book about Martin Luther King, Jr. whose cartoon illustration will give you a chuckle — since it’s him as a kid but with a mustache. We learn how much Martin liked words, an experience with a white friend not playing with him because he was black, winning a speech competition, and so much more. The injustice in the world bothered Martin and he wanted to do something about it. The book does NOT end with his death but ends on a positive note of standing strong and facing struggles.
Yaks Yack Animal Word Pairs by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Jennifer Black Reinhardt
“Apes ape. Fish fish. Badgers badger.” Start your children’s love for word play young with this captivating picture book!
Masterpieces Up Close Western Painting from the 14th to 20th Centuries by Claire d’Harcourt
I love the format of this nonfiction art book but very much dislike that no women artists were included. Each famous masterpiece includes close up details on the sidebar which share facts about the paintings, ask questions, and so forth. Lift-the-flaps on the back pages give biographical information about each artist.
Where’s Will? Find Shakespeare Hidden In His Plays by Anna Claybourne, illustrated by Tilly
This is the coolest search and find book! A two-page spread show cartoons with the storyline of each of ten plays followed by another two-page spread illustrating the play where you must search to find Shakespeare.
Biggest and Smallest! Guinness World Records Over 300 Fun Facts by Christy Webster
Photos accompany fun facts about the biggest and smallest of so many things — food, instruments, and more.
Wacky and Wild! Guinness World Records by Calliope Glass
The smallest living horse, a girl with the biggest collection of Hello Kitty items (one 4,000!), and the fastest snowman to run a marathon — all of these wacky facts are fun to read!
Paris Up, Up and Away by Helene Druvert
The paper-cut art is magnificent! The Eiffel Tower narrates his day-off journey through Paris. From the Seine, to a big department store, to Notre Dame. It’s not really nonfiction but I thought I’d throw it in the mix for it’s geography.
Two Friends: Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass by Dean Robbins, illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko
You’ll find this to be a fascinating glimpse of two activists who are both fighting for their rights — one for women and one for African Americans. Very interesting!
A Chicken Followed Me Home! by Robin Page
If you like chickens, and who doesn’t really, then this book is for you!! You’ll learn about different breeds, types of coops, all the basics of chickens!
Welcome to the Symphony: A Musical Exploration of the Orchestra Using Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 by Carolyn Sloan and James Williamson
Mouse narrate this beautiful and informative nonfiction picture book that teaches kids about the symphony from the conductor to woodwinds to harmony. On the right side the book are interactive buttons for children to press and hear the different instruments and musical terms. Sometimes the buttons don’t work on my book anymore though.
Dear Pope Francis: The Pope Answers Letters from Children Around the World by Pope Francis
Letters from children (whose names, ages and country are included) ask Pope Francis about all sorts of topics — what makes him happy, why do people suffer, why do parents argue, how to find God . . . Pope Francis replies to each letter with love and thoughtfulness in a conversational, kid-friendly manner.
Chasing Freedom by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Michele Wood
I loved this nonfiction picture book about Susan B. Anthony and Harriet Tubman — two women who changed the world!
Messenger The Legend of Joan of Arc A Graphic Novel by Tony Lee and Sam Hart
Tween and teen readers probably don’t know the true story of Joan of Arc. While the authors don’t claim that this is anything but fiction, I would say it’s closer to nonfiction since it’s based on historical facts. It’s amazing to see Joan never waver in her convictions and stand strong in the face of doubt and eventually death. This is an excellent depiction of her life.
Mercy The Incredible Story of Henry Bergh: Founder of the ASPCA and Friend to Animals by Nancy Furstinger
This little nonfiction chapter book packs a big punch — it’s the absolutely fascinating life of a rich (and formerly lazy) man named Henry Bergh who devoted his life and his money to saving maltreated animals in the late 1800s. (He also is persuaded to start campaigning for children as well — they were often treated just as badly or worse!) This is one of my favorite narrative nonfiction books ever. One of the reasons I like this book so much is that the writing is excellent and the author paints a complete picture of a man who is flawed. The print is big (yeah!) and the illustrations throughout add to the narrative. FANTASTIC and I highly recommend this narrative nonfiction chapter book for schools and libraries!